Living at Brick Hill.

Mavis Smith, née Smith, has lived at Brick Hill for all her life.

I was born in Brick Hill. My father was born here, and his father.

My great grandfather built a house here, where we live. My father built a house in the garden next door. That was in 1928.

Where my house is now there was just a derelict bungalow. My father used to keep chickens in it. I can remember the wallpaper in one of the rooms, and how a lot of it was tumbled down. It was very small, with a sloping roof at the back. It had been in the family since 1860. My house is on the same footprint, but it’s bigger. My daughter lives next door. She lives where my mother was.

We’ve been here so long that the little lane beside my house has always been known as Smith’s Lane by local people.

All the family have been to Valley End School. We had to walk there. We just went across the Common. I remember starting school, and crying my eyes out.

Valley End School used to be very small. It’s much bigger now. There were only 3 classrooms when I was there. There were two head teachers while I was there, Mrs Kendall and Miss Abraham.

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Valley End School. (Image courtesy of Chobham Museum.)

Miss Abraham was nice. She was my Head Teacher, and later she always wanted my daughter to go to that school too. We lived in West End then, but we were coming back to Brick Hill. My daughter did go to Valley End because one of the teachers used to bring her. He would bring her in the morning, because he had to pass where we lived, and he brought her home of a night.

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Valley End School. (Image courtesy of Dave Hizzey.)

Years ago you used to be able to hear the children playing in the school from Brick Hill. Of course with the motorway now you don’t. I think the motorway had been on the cards for years before it was built. My father died in 1963, and he’d talked of it long before that. He said it was spoken about in the 1940’s. Now we’re cut off from Chobham, we’re the other side of it now. We’re Chobham people! Not Windlesham!

I’ve done a lot in Windlesham and Sunningdale – it’s two miles each way, so you take your pick where you go. Years ago you’d walk or cycle.

You used to go across the golf course. By the time you went round on a bus, you could be across the golf course. You had to go right from the convent, down Highams Corner, where the bus stopped, and it’s pretty nearly a mile. So while you’re walking down there you could be half way there.

I can’t remember the Convent in detail. They did the laundry there. The girls who went there who either did something wrong, or didn’t have a home. One fellow used to live here in Brick Hill and he used to work there. I can remember him cycling by when I was young. After that he lived on the property down there until he died. They provided him with a house.

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Brick Hill. (Image courtesy of Dave Hizzey.)

Where the roundabout is now was a crossroads. That’s where you used to see all the goldfinches in the gorse bushes.

When you grew up with the wildlife you didn’t really take any notice. It’s the same with wild flowers, when you see them all the time, you wonder why people are all going mad over them. But the Common’s all overgrown now. It’s because of all the silver birch and the trees.

You used to be able to stand in the garden here and see up on the golf course, up on the top green. I used to play up there, on the fairway, and my Mum would come out in the garden, and wave tea towels, and I would know it was time to come home. You could see the golfers going to the tee, and now you can’t see anything.

They’ve done a lot to clear the Common now, which has made it better. But it’s all overgrown to what it was. They have cut a lot of the trees down, but not enough for me. I like seeing the heather, and not all this silver birch taking over.

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Brick Hill. (Image courtesy of Dave Hizzey.)

We used to go up to the golf course and play in the summer. We would go with our bathing costumes on, and play where the sprinklers came on. Nobody took any notice in those days. That was just after the war.

When the War finished, we had a big party there. All down the fairway there were tables.

I wouldn’t like children playing on the golf course now. You would worry. You used to go out and you didn’t come back until it was teatime. But there are a lot of cars now.

There was only one man round here who worked on the course. That was Mr Hampton. I suppose boys did go caddying, but not my generation.

They can’t stop you going straight across it. There’s a footpath that goes across from here to Sunningdale.

Roy Smithers’ bench was a lovely place to go when it was Bonfire Night. You could see fireworks all the way round.

On Sunday you would go across to the Clumps, and they would have model aeroplanes flying. There used to be ice cream man, and that used to be our treat, to go over there on Sunday afternoon, really just for an ice cream.

In the War my father was the ARP warden for round here. I can remember in the night people banging on the doors, evacuees, and people coming, and he would help them.

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An ARP (Air Raid Precautions Warden) reports for duty. Image courtesy of IWM.

We had evacuees staying with us. I don’t know how long they stayed. There were two boys who came from different families. One had relations in Windlesham. His Granny was there. I don’t know why she couldn’t have him. The other one came from London. One of them came back and found me. When I was fifteen, he cycled from Buckinghamshire, just to find the place. I had just started work and when I came home he was here. I still hear from him every Christmas.

The Camp was built on the Common during the War. Soldiers were there first. I can’t remember much about them. My Mum used to their washing. When I was born, my father worked in Bagshot as a gardener, but when they built the Camp he worked there.

Up there they had electricity. We didn’t have it here. There was no electricity put on until the early 1950s. We used gas, oil lamps, and candles. One person down in Brick Hill had a generator, so they had electricity.

I remember one family up on the Camp had a television. All us children used to go when her husband wasn’t there. We had rows of chairs, like a cinema, but there was only one programme and then you had the interludes.

You used to have the water tower up on the hill, on Fox Hill. That was knocked down the day my youngest daughter was born.

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Fox Hill. (Image courtesy of Dave Hizzey).

They had main drainage at the Camp and we haven’t. We didn’t have the water put on until 1946. Before that we had a well in the garden. It was for next door too.

It was nice when you had the huts at the Camp. We were friendly with all the people. We still are with a lot of them.

You can see where the huts in the Camp were, and where we used to go and play. I was always baby mad, and I used to go for walks for miles with the babies. I used to push them out on a Sunday afternoon, and on school holidays I used to take all these babies from up the Camp out. Now they’re all grown up and got children and grandchildren of their own, but I think I used to push you about in a pram!

After the war the Camp finished. Some of the bases were left. All the tops were taken off and then a lot of the bases were gradually broken up. There are still some of the roads, but not many of the bases. They could have turned the Camp into housing because it had electricity, and main drainage. A lot of people from the Camp went to Windlesham, Bagshot or Chobham.

The Gypsies used to turn up and park at different places. They were never any trouble. They just used to come and pull up, perhaps with one single caravan. They’d maybe have dogs and a chicken. There were little places where they pulled up all the time, and they’d stay 2 or 3 days and then move on. I don’t think there was any trouble at all. They used to be down by the church, pulling off the road opposite Pembroke House. Or they used to park by the top of Round Pond. When they went you wouldn’t know they’d been. They left it all tidy.

My Mum used to clean the church at one stage so I used to go down and help polish, and do the floor. That was when I was 10, 11, 12 … I can remember being on hands and knees.

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Valley End Church. (Image courtesy of Chobham Museum.)

When I was a child most people worked in gardening, or building. Sturt’s had a building yard in Brick Hill. They built this house, and my mother’s. They were only 2 or 3 doors away. My husband worked for them at one time.

There was a shop in Brick Hill. It was just in a sitting room. She used to sell sweets, and tins of stuff At Christmas time she used to get bottles of scent, and hankies, the little things that you gave people. She sold bottles of pop. The Stanfields used to come and bring the drink and open the bottles on the fence.

The only thing you had to go out for was for the post office. We didn’t have one. The different tradespeople used to come round. I’d give an order one week and they’d deliver the next. Belchers used to deliver up here. Suttons used to come round with the bread. The coalman used to come.

I started work looking after Dr.Cooke’s children in Chobham. I was down there, from the time I left school, until my daughter was born. Their children were my bridesmaids. Once my children arrived I used to go out and do a little bit of cleaning.

Then I went from that to the school. I worked for Mr. Turner. I used to be the cleaner. I cleaned the school on my hands and knees, because it was easier. I didn’t realise what it was going to do to my knees, or else I wouldn’t have done it. I’ve suffered for it since. Then I took over as caretaker in 1974.

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Valley End School. (Image courtesy Valley End School.)

Mr. Turner was very good. The pantomimes he used to put on were good, even when they were done by really young children. I used to enjoy them better than going to a proper panto.

In 1980 I packed that up and worked for Brian Blessed. They moved here and his daughter was born, and I used to look after her. I only stopped working for him about 4 years ago. I used to do a lot of his fan mail. I used to get Brian to come and do Father Christmas at the school.

Brick Hill is either mud or dust. Either it’s all muddy when it’s been raining, or cars go by and you get clouds of dust. There’s an awful lot of cars come and you don’t know who they are. At one time you used to know every car.

You used to know everybody. If the lorry driver from Sturt’s was coming along when we were walking home from school, he’d stop and we’d all pile in the back. Things like that. And you were content to just play around here.

Now you never see any children out playing. I used to play all out on the Common, and my children used to, but they had children to play with. We’ve lost that.

So Brick Hill is not the same as it used to be.

By Mavis Smith, née Smith.

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